82% of Americans have come to believe that the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse. There are many phrases like this one that have been branded as “Christian” that are not found anywhere in Scripture. Many times these phrases pop up in conversation or across our news feed as a means to inspire or encourage but they actually do more harm than good. They end up misleading people as to who God is or teach the very opposite of what His Word says. Our help doesn’t come from our own words but from the Word of God (Matt. 4:4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). As believers we want to examine the phrases we say and test them to see if we are proclaiming the good news as found in Scripture (1 John 4:1-4). Through the work that Jesus has accomplished on the cross and His resurrection, God is looking to help people but it isn’t exactly those who can help themselves.
Jesus directs a parable in Luke 18:9-14 to a certain group of people. Luke tells us in verse 9 that there were some in the crowd who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. Essentially what these people believed is that they helped themselves to be righteous. They were able to accomplish favor from God based on their own work and effort. In this parable you have a proud Pharisee who lists the many ways that he has helped himself and a humble tax collector who cannot even look to heaven because of the many ways that he has failed God. In the end who did God help? Was it the one who helped himself or the one who was helpless? Jesus says in verse 14, “I tell you, [the tax collector] went to his house justified rather than the [Pharisee]; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Jesus shows us directly that it’s not the one who helped himself that God helped but the one who realized that he was helpless before God. This is in complete opposition to what that phrase tells us. The Gospel tells us that God helps those who can’t help themselves! We were dead and helpless in our sins which is why God acted in sending His Son to be the atoning sacrifice. It wasn’t all that we could do that motivated God to send His Son but all that we couldn’t do!
Jesus, again, reiterates our helplessness in John 15:5 when He declares, “you can do nothing apart from me.” The Bible declares faith is a gift, repentance is a gift, and salvation is a gift. These have all been given to us. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” What this means is that there will be no one in Heaven who can say that they arrived there by helping themselves. We are products of His great mercy and help. We have no help, no strength, or righteousness to offer before God. We proclaim along with the hymn writer, “Nothing, not even our own help, in our hands we bring but simply to the cross we cling!
Looking To His Help, Pastor Rudy